US: Jewish community centers in Alabama, Florida, Maryland and North Carolina evacuated in new round of bomb threats. pic.twitter.com/C2mktJn4jM
— Behind The News (@Behind__News) February 27, 2017
JCCs in Florida, Indiana, Delaware, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Alabama each received anonymous messages warning of a bomb in their building by mid-morning. The seemingly coordinated series of threats comes after nearly 100 gravestones were vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia over the weekend—the second time a Jewish cemetery has been hit in an apparent anti-Semitic attack in one week.
Monday morning's threat marks the third such incident for Birmingham, AL's Levite Jewish Community Center in the past month and a half. Speaking with AL.com, JCC executive director Betzy Lynch connected the bomb threats with a rising spike in anti-Semitism across the United States.
"Obviously it's incredibly disconcerting, the wave of anti-Semitism that's coming across the country," Lynch explained. "I believe that… now the threats seem to be going beyond just Jewish community centers into obviously Jewish cemeteries, and into Jewish day schools, and it just seems to be escalating."
Jewish communal groups have been increasingly insistent that President Trump speak out in response to what have thus-far remained just threats. After a prolonged period of administrative silence on the wave of bomb threats, and a truly bizarre response to a reporter's question about the uptick in anti-Semitism, Trump finally addressed the harassment by name last week, telling reporters that "The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community at community centers are horrible and are painful," during remarks at the Smithsonian Museum of African American History.
Before February 21, over 50 North American JCCs and other Jewish organizations were the recipient of (so far baseless) threats since the new year began. It remains to be seen how many more will be added to that number with this latest wave of calls.
Taken together, however, the past two months of bomb threats—and now, cemetery vandalism—targeting Jewish communities are beginning to look less like a series of loosely related incidents, and more and more like a sustained, coordinated, nationwide anti-Semitic effort.
Update: On Monday afternoon, David Posner, director of strategic performance for the Jewish Community Center Association of North America, issued a sternly worded statement addressing this latest rash of bomb threats.
Anti-Semitism of this nature should not and must not be allowed to endure in our communities. The Justice Department, Homeland Security, the FBI, and the White House, alongside Congress and local officials, must speak out – and speak out forcefully – against this scourge of anti-Semitism impacting communities across the country.
Actions speak louder than words. Members of our community must see swift and concerted action from federal officials to identify and capture the perpetrator or perpetrators who are trying to instill anxiety and fear in our communities.
We remain grateful to local law enforcement who continue to serve our communities and ensure that our JCCs and schools remain safe and open for business as the vital community institutions they are